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The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013)

Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 6/25/2013

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Video: 1/2
Audio: 1/2
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 6/20/2013

Own The Incredible Burt Wonderstone on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and Digital Download 6/25

Movies can be prophetic. There have been plenty of films which have, in one way or another, predicted something which was going to transpire in the future. Be it an event or a change in technology, the imagination of screenwriters have often turned into reality at some point in time. Many science-fiction films have offered what were thought of as whimsical and far-fetched devices which now exist today. In contrast, there are sometimes movies which feel as if they've arrived too late to the party. These films contain ideas or characters which would have been relevant at some point in time, but the time that the film was released, that time had passed. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is such a film.

Young Burt (Mason Cook) was constantly bullied and had no friends. His life changed the day that he received a magic kit for this birthday. He began to practice magic and dazzled a classmate, Anton (Luke Vanek), and the two became fast friends. They developed a magic act based on their friendship and found a place at Ballys in Las Vegas. But, now, after performing the same show night-after-night for ten years, they are jaded. Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) is a narcissist who takes home a different woman every night. Anton Marvel (Steve Buscemi) still loves magic, but has lost interest in the show. The two "friends" now bicker backstage and rarely see each other outside of work. However, when they witness street magician Steve Gray (Jim Carrey) performing his bizarre and grotesque show on the Strip, they know their days are numbered. Hotel owner Doug Munny (James Gandolfini) informs Burt and Anton that their business is down and that they need to change their act. When this fails, the two go their separate ways. Unemployed and lost, Burt must do some soul-searching in order to re-discover the magic within himself.

Sometimes while watching a movie, we take an imaginary peak behind the curtain, if you will, and imagine the inner working of the film. We envision the plan which the filmmakers had when conceiving the film, and compare it to the finished project, and I'm sure that The Incredible Burt Wonderstone seemed like a brilliant plan for several reason. The problem is that even great planning doesn't yield perfect results.

First of all, we have a case of overly creative casting (sort of). Steve Carrell is playing an exaggerated version of his Michael Scott character from The Office. Like Michael, Burt is blind to his own insensitivity to others and has no idea how clueless he is. But, while Michael was mostly harmless, Burt is truly cruel at first, and thus, unlikable. Yes, he has his comeuppance and change of heart, no spoilers there, but a movie is always taking a chance when the main characters turns us off, especially when it's someone who is normally lovable like Carrell. Similarly, we've got Jim Carrey playing the villain...sort of. Steve Gray is never out to hurt Burt or Anton -- his show is simply popular and, not unlike Burt, he believes his own hype. Carrey is OK in this role, but his natural goofiness comes through, which means that Steve was probably more menacing on the page. The actor who is really playing against type here is Steve Buscemi. The man who brings the stoic and mean Nucky Thompson to life on Boardwalk Empire really hams it up here at Anton, and the result is funny, but a bit awkward.

I also bet that the writers felt that they had hit on something with the magic angle, as we don't see many movies with magicians. (Although, I've been watching a lot of Arrested Development lately and I kept thinking of GOB during this movie.) The problem is that something as (seemingly) unique as magic can't cover up the fact that everything about The Incredible Burt Wonderstone's script is incredibly cliched. This is simply a classic rags-to-riches-to-rags story where the main character suffers a loss and must put his life back together. Every step of the story is so calculated that one can't help but wonder if the movie thinks that it's spoofing this genre. However, it never feels like a spoof, which is where the problem comes in. Speaking of the magic angle, this feels incredibly dated. Steve Gray is clearly supposed to be someone like Criss Angel, someone who's fame peaked about 7 years ago. Also, there is a magician character who was attacked by a tiger, clearly a reference to Sigfried and Roy, whose tragedy happened a decade ago. Not exactly timely jokes. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone feels like one of those movies which was shot years ago and remained on the shelf, but it's time between production and release was only slightly longer than normal.

The sad thing about The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is that there are some very funny moments in the film. I say sad because one must wade through everything else to get to them. Some of the jokes and gags are very clever, which shows that the movie had real potential, but the unoriginal story and the uneven characters really drag it down. In the end, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is the kind of movie where you would describe the funniest scenes to a friend while cautioning them to not waste their time with it.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone has some awesome hair on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 21 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no notable grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good (especially reds and greens) and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is very good, as we can make out textures on objects, and there is a nice amount of depth here. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.9 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are good, as they show good separation. The surround effects really come to life during Burt and Anton's show and during the crowd scenes. These effects are detailed and we can often distinguish individual sounds. Subwoofer effects come mostly from musical cues.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone Blu-ray Disc contains only a few extras. "Steve Gray Uncut" (9 minutes) is a faux behind-the-scenes look at Gray and act. While this is edited to look like something from Spike TV, it features fake interviews with Gray and what are essentially deleted scenes from his stunts seen in the film. In "Making Movie Magic with David Copperfield" (8 minutes) we see how the famous magician was asked to help with the "Hangman" illusion. This includes a test video made to demonstrate the piece. The Disc contains 15 DELETED SCENES & ALTERNATE TAKES which run about 26 minutes. The extended intro to the stage show is funny, and there are a couple of good lines here. The final extra is a 4-minute GAG REEL.

Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.